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Despite losses, Amazon CEO plans more risk-taking

Jeff Bezos says his company will continue to experiment and tells people to "stay tuned" for more about Amazon's unpopular Fire Phone.

Bezos, pictured at the Fire phone unveiling in June, said Tuesday avoiding failure is the wrong strategy. James Martin/CNET

NEW YORK -- Losing billions of dollars in failed projects doesn't matter. Having a flop in your company's first smartphone doesn't matter. What does matter is a willingness to take risks.

That was Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' primary message at his talk during Business Insider's Ignition conference Tuesday, where he defended his company's aggressive growth strategy despite investors howling for him to curb spending. A bigger problem, he said, would be if a company stopped taking risks, forcing it to make a desperate play to survive late in the game.

"A few big successes compensate for dozens and dozens of things that didn't work," he said, pointing to Amazon's gains from its Kindle tablet, data center business and third-party online marketplace. "Bold bets...pay for a lot of failures. I've made billions of dollars of failures at Amazon.com."

Bezos' words signaled he has no interest taking his foot off the gas as Amazon pushes into new businesses -- from original television series to grocery deliveries to a and smartphones. Some of these devices and services may prove to be busts, but Bezos said he continues to encourage his employees to experiment in the pursuit of the next big thing in tech.

The company's recent cycle of investment has resulted in losses for two years, making some on Wall Street jittery. In October, Amazon reported a third-quarter loss of $437 million.

Interviewer Henry Blodget, Business Insider co-founder and CEO, pressed Bezos on the failures of the Fire Phone smartphone, which went on sale in July. The phone failed to make a dent in the market, and after two months, went from $200 to 99 cents with a two-year wireless contract. Bezos responded that some technologies "take iterations" to get right.

"With the phone I just ask you to stay tuned," Bezos said.

Blodget disclosed that Bezos is an investor in Business Insider and Blodget is also a long-time investor in Amazon.